RENSSELAER | Going in to Tuesday's Rensselaer Sectional, Hebron and the host Bombers were expected to battle for the boys cross country title. Unexpectedly, Rensselaer got some help from rival Kanakakee Valley to take the title with 53 points.
The Kougars crowded in in for second place with 62, followed by the Hawks with 67. Knox and LaCrosse finished fourth and fifth for the final two regional-qualifying spots.
"They knew what they had to do," Rensselaer coach Sid Dobson said. "They had to run hard because Hebron beat us all year long. Hebron was the favored team and the team to beat so the goal was to get as many guys under 18 (minutes) as possible."
Rennselaer's Trent Nagel took individual honors, finishing in 16 minutes and 46 seconds, while K.V.'s Travis Conley and Seth Raebel took second and third. Hebron's Trevor Lewin was fourth. Rensselaer's four other runners finished no worse than 17th to take the title.
K.V. put its runners in the top 24 to help deter the Hawks.
"They probably helped us a lot thinning the Hebron crowd so we're happy with it," Dobson said.
"Our team had a good finish today, and I was really surprised with my time," said Conley, a freshman.
Nagel got out to an early lead and held off Conley by just under eight seconds.
"I didn't really expect to win," Nagel said. "It was a big adrenaline rush at the end there."
Conley said he just tried to stay on Nagel's heels.
"We were at the 100-meter mark, and he took off," Conley said. "I tried to push my hardest, but I had nothing left."
In the girls race, Boone Grove's indefatigable Jordan Chester ran and hid, winning in 18:58, crossing more than a minute ahead of Hebron's Jordan Hanaway.
Chester won the individual title as a freshman and sophomore and took second last year.
"I was really looking to come out and do a lot better than I did last year just time wise and place wise," she said.
K.V. eased to the girls title with 35 points to runner-up Hebron's 61. Boone Grove took third with 74, followed by North Judson and Kouts.
K.V. bunched its runners in the top 12 spots, led by Kristin Fritts who finished third.
"We ran better than expected," K.V. coach Lane Lewallen said. "We were on a roll, but even in my greediest expectations I wasn't expecting five in the top 12. That's just an outstanding team effort."